Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Kanda Bongo Man

  • Amour Fou/Crazy Love [Carthage, 1987] B+
  • Kwassa Kwassa [Hannibal, 1989] B+
  • Zing Zong [Hannibal, 1991] **
  • Soukous in Central Park [Hannibal, 1993] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Amour Fou/Crazy Love [Carthage, 1987]
Paris-based soukous keyed less to sweet Congo patois than to supernaturally light-fingered guitar. Quick enough to raise the dead, I swear. Only problem is, it goes by so fast you forget it was ever there--now you hear it, now you don't. B+

Kwassa Kwassa [Hannibal, 1989]
Vocals mild, tempos unvaryingly moderate-plus, named for an African dance craze that's only a wonderful name to me or you ("Quoi Ça? Quoi Ça?"), this one-hour serving of modern soukous cynosure is what vulgar poppophiles call samey. The first two cuts played back-to-back will certainly delight whoever you play them for. Any two cuts played back-to-back will probably delight whoever you play them for. All 10 cuts played back to back will fade into the background as surely as Brian Eno or the washing machine. B+

Zing Zong [Hannibal, 1991]
Montreuil HI-NRG to the mellow--generically, but he invented the genre **

Soukous in Central Park [Hannibal, 1993]
Prolonged comparison to 1988's Kwassa Kwassa and 1991's Zing Zong reveals distinctions so subtle I can't swear they're there. I'm certain guitarist Nene Tshakou is slightly fleeter and more lyrical (if less dazzling) than Diblo Dibala, who went on to make greater records than the boss after helping him reinvent soukous, and that Tshakou was having a good day. And I'd guess that maybe the boss's music tends to take off--lifts, grooves, accelerates--in front of an audience. For sure neither live audio nor live song length are drawbacks. For sure the material is choice. Start here. A-